A Son Never Forgets…
Though there is excitement for April and I as we prepare for a new season of life and ministry in California the past several days have been marked by sadness as well. It has always been about people for us—and at Fellowship Memphis we have been around some of the best in the world.
We’ll leave knowing full well that HERE is where our family, our gifts, and our vision was shaped and formed. Thank you for having us. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for launching us.
There’s a scene in the movie, The Gladiator (stay with me ladies), where Maximus and the Emperor are planning to save Rome from those who would undermine her virtue. Reflecting romantically upon their native homeland as more than just a place, but more so an idea, the emperor says, “There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish…it was so fragile.” I think that captures just how precious Fellowship Memphis is.
I came along around 2008 but had been connected to the church since its early days through my relationship with my mentor Brian Loritts. I can remember back in 2003 when Brian and Korie told me they were moving to Memphis. They were excited to join a guy named John Bryson and another guy named Ben Parkinson along with 28 other folks. They’d begun worshipping in a living room and had spent the first couple of years bouncing from location to location trying to figure it out as a young church plant.
I thought to myself, “Yeah, all that sounds perfectly crazy.” Perhaps it was.
But as I reflect upon the past 10 years of my time at Fellowship Memphis I often think to myself, “Thank God for crazy folks who dared to believe that God could create a gospel-centered church that reflects the diversity of our city.”
Fourteen years later Fellowship has shared the gospel with tens of thousands of people and equipped dozens of pastoral residents who have been unleashed on the world. Her people have ventured through countless mission trips. And perhaps most importantly, our city has felt our love and our presence.
Thank God for crazy people with crazier faith!
It was their crazy faith that allowed me to come as a resident back in 2008. I was a young pastor in a small church in Oakland, CA, who dreamed to go to seminary with no means to do so. Their crazy faith raised funds that paid for my seminary training. Their faith gave me the opportunity to lead our efforts at Kingsbury High School, where every week dozens of us loved on those kids with the gospel. Their faith opened the path to start Fellowship Downtown where still there is an AMAZING team of believers who share their gifts with DT Elementary School kids, the Memphis Union Mission, and the homeless of our city. Their faith created a place where I first laid eyes on April Jenkins back in February 2009 (yes—I remember the first day I saw her!).
Their faith gave me an environment where I, as an African American man, could pursue the woman I KNEW God had prepared for me. Their faith allowed me to teach the gospel here many times. Their faith taught me what a gospel-centered, multiethnic, disciple-making witness of the gospel looks like. Their faith allowed me to pour into residents. Their faith helped me to perform a bunch of weddings. Their faith allowed me to be with our people through tough times. And when cancer darkened our door, their faith made for an entire church community that put their arms around us and walked us to healing. Thank God for crazy people with crazier faith!
Many have asked what we’ll miss about Fellowship and Memphis. The list is long.
We’ll miss worship on Sundays and enjoying that weekly glimpse of what Heaven’s gonna be like. I’ll miss my brothers and sisters on the staff many of whom were not just colleagues, but friends. I’ll miss JB’s uncanny ability to perfectly innovate a solution to what was before the most complex of problems.
I’ll miss Beth Bryson constantly showering us with hospitality and surprise “happies” waiting for us on our doorstep. I’ll miss the Downtown Outpost. Because those folks were our everything. I’ll miss preaching at the Memphis Union Mission—because that’s where it’s at. I’ll miss preaching here on Sundays—because nothing was more fulfilling. I’ll miss Hamp and Nancy Holcomb—for they parented us these last 10 years. And now they grandparent Cam and Grand. Thank ya Hamp. Thank ya Nance. We won’t forget all you have done for us! A son never forgets.
I’ll miss Elder Jay Harvill and Brother Juniper’s breakfasts where we bared our souls and figured out the problems of the world. I’ll miss Soup Campbell—for he pastored me and gave me a safe place to be Ricky, confess sin, be challenged, and be normal. I’ll miss Jeff Randall—because he’s been my accountability partner for 6 years—thank ya brother. I’ll miss Hassan, Eddie, and the rest of the Elder Team. I’ll miss Kerry Shepard—for she has been my wife’s confidante and friend. Kerry’s home was our happy place. I’ll miss laughing with folks after church on Sundays and eating BBQ at potlucks. Well, I’ll just plain miss BBQ in general too.
I’ll miss Easters at the Cannon Center. I’ll miss Virgil (it’s a Downtown thing, you wouldn’t understand). I’ll miss Gibson’s red velvet cake donuts, Central’s Wings. Let me stop here—you get the drift. I’ll miss the “whisper” y’all. And I pray none of us ever forget just how precious it is to be a part of this church and its mission. I’m confident you will continue—and the best days of FM are still ahead.
April and I leave this precious “whisper” not as a couple who was just passing through. We leave as a son and daughter of this house charged to go elsewhere to represent the family. To go be crazy. To give to others all that has been given to us. May God bless us to do you proud.